Unique Gifts From a Unique City
I'm a New Orleanian by God's design and by choice. So, I admit to being a tad (ok, more than a tad) eccentric. For one thing I avoid malls like the plague. Going to a suburban mall never seems to work out well for me. For one thing, I can never remember where I parked my car. I also walk around a lot in a nice, organized, climate-controlled environment looking at familiar national chain stores. There's lots of stuff, but I rarely find anything I really want. It's all so ....well....predictable. So, at the end of the day I end up empty-handed at the one place in the mall I love, the food court. This leaves me with a full Christmas list and tight pants.
Fortunately for me, I live in New Orleans within walking distance of Magazine Street and a short streetcar ride from the French Quarter and the Warehouse/Arts District. That's where I shop for the holidays. And, while I think my son-in-law really liked the no-iron shirts I got from Brooks Brothers in the mall one year, I know the gift he will someday hand down to his son is the set of antique cast iron bookends I got on Magazine Street. So, come shopping with me and I promise you will be inspired.
First up is New Orleans' French Quarter. Most people only think of it as a place to eat and, of course, drink. But, if all you know of the French Quarter is Bourbon Street, you're missing a lot. There's great shopping in the French Quarter. There are antique stores and art galleries on Royal Street and clothes, shoes and jewelry on Chartres. Take a walk down Decatur Street for more affordable gifts.
For affordable original art don't pass up the street venders abound Jackson Square and behind the St. Louis Cathedral. The artists often work while you watch and are willing to haggle on price.
If art is on your list, try Julia Street in the Warehouse District for Contemporary Art. And while you're in this district take a break from shopping to visit the Contemporary Arts Center, the Odgen Museum of Southern Art, or the National World War II Museum. All three museums are within one block of each other on Camp Street, just around the corner from Julia Street. All three museums have great gift shops for a fun place to find a unique gift.
Riverwalk MarketplaceIf you really need a mall, walk to the end of Canal Street, a short walk from the French Quarter there you will find the Riverwalk Marketplace. The mall is along the Mississippi River and is not your ordinary mall. It houses may small, unique shops like the Doll Cottage where you'll find porcelain dolls, wooden marionettes and other great gifts for kids. Try Fleur D'Orleans for jewelry with a New Orleans theme, or Pure Amber for a fine collection of Baltic Amber jewelry and other merchandise. The Riverwalk contains primarily boutiques, but there are also many of the usual mall haunts like Gap and Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Victoria's Secret. What makes shopping at the Riverwalk so much fun is its location, right on the riverfront, and the strolling jazz bands that entertain you while you shop.
The Shops at Canal PlaceAnother more traditional mall is located at the end of the French Quarter on Canal Street.Canal Place has high end stores like Saks, Brooks Brothers and Coach. But it also has a great store called Rhino (Right here in New Orleans) where you can find great gifts from local artists.
Magazine Street is always a favorite with over six miles of shops and restaurants. You can find just about anything you're looking for on Magazine Street, including apparel for the whole family, antiques, art, home furnishings, jewelry, and fine stationery. Try the Magazine Antique Mall at 3017 Magazine for great finds. This building houses the oldest and largest antique shop on the street. It has many small stalls where individual venders rent space. So the variety of items for sale is endless. And, the inventory is constantly changing as the venders are moving out and in all the time. Some of the items I've found there include an antique clock ($150.00) and a crystal punch bowl with 12 glasses ($100.00).
When shopping for Christmas, don't forget the museum stores. This is a great way to avoid crowds, find a unique gift and enjoy a great museum. This is the way to shop and end the day happy, relaxed and with great gifts.
New Orleans has some great art and flea markets where unique gifts can be found. The most famous is the French Market in the French Quarter. But, there's also the New Orleans Art Market and the Bywater Art Market for great deals on crafts and art from local artisans.